It is very difficult to make a biopic or write a biography. The person at helm treads the thin line between being engrossing and being boring. In the days where people are more concerned about their whatsapp messages and twitter updates, it takes a lot to be engrossed with what’s happening on screen. There is another aspect that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Prasoon Joshi bring to our notice- a truth that many were ignorant of. For instance, a lot of us know him as a man who missed winning an Olympic medal by a whisker, but how many of us know that he won gold medals in the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
The movie, as all of us, by now, know is a biopic on Milkha Singh. It does take a few cinematic liberties, none more than the fact that he held the record for 400m at one point. Putting those liberties aside, we need to applaud the efforts of every single person involved with the movie. The movie never deviates from what it wants to convey and as a result, is held together by a tightly bound script. The movie shifts between the present (in the movie it is 1960’s) and the flashback seamlessly.
It is difficult to look beyond Farhan Akhtar in this movie. No, it’s not just for the chiselled body that he developed for the movie. He displays the acting chops in a brilliantly scripted role. Since the movie revolves around the life and times of Milkha Singh, Farhan Akhtar shows subtle variations in various stages of the life of the protagonist. In the days of youth it is his rebellious nature that is in focus. The director cleverly takes the audience along in those scenes, never better than the scene where Farhan Akhtar gobbles up two tins of ghee and doing numerous push-ups in response to a corrupt police official asking him to bribe him with one tin. After all that he asks the police officer to keep both the tins. There is some screen time dedicated to his relationship with his sister and the after effects of partition.
The scenes which show the after effects of partition are entirely pictured on a young actor ( who plays the younger version of Farhan Akhtar). He literally lights up the screen with his presence everytime he gets the opportunity to be on screen. His role is a crucial one as his emotions are precursors to Farhan’s. At no point does the kid let down the movie. In fact, the scene where he comes in search of his mother and what follows next is one of the best scenes in the recent past of Indian cinema. Equal credit should go to the director as he sets the scene up brilliantly.
Divya Dutta doesn’t have much of screen time, but the best scene of the movie belongs to her- the scene where Farhan Akhtar comes back and persuades her to wear the Indian blazer and to tuck her hands in the pocket. I have to be a bit truthful here. This was a scene, apart from showing the pains of partition, where I shed copious tears. And then after this scene, there is heartbreak for Farhan. He portrays contrasting emotions brilliantly. The sorrow of having one of your worst moments in life just after the best moment in life was something that I could relate to. I am sure many amongst us will.
Pawan Malhotra and Yograj Singh have got good roles and they performed exceptionally well. Pawan Malhotra, especially, confounds a whole lot of us by appearing in limited movies. He needs to answer why he does so. Art Malik (person playing Farhan’s father) is one more actor who impresses. It is him who gets to utter the title as a dialogue.
That every actor performed well is a credit to the director and the story writer. It made a lot of sense to have Prakash Raj as the person providing us comical relief. Without actually making fun of his accent, he ensures that Prakash Raj provides us the comical relief. One more thing that stood out for me was the fact that in spite of having so many references to Pakistan, not at any point does the director resort to jingoism. In fact, he has one of the characters utter this dialogue about partition ‘No man is bad, it’s the situations that are bad’
The movie ends with a placard that has three words by Milkha Singh- Hardwork, willpower and dedication.